Chapter 160100756

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160100756
Full Date1884-09-06
Page Number44
Corrections0
Word Count1510
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleMary
article text

CHAPTER IV.

Unfortunately for the natives, civilization .preEsed closely on them. Civilization in itself is not such an unmixed evil that one should dread its contact with an unsophis ticated people. Bat the first effects of a civilization that is accompanied by grog and gunpowder is the destruction of any of the first shoots or longings for a higher life that the simple native may possess.

The tribes around Adelaide were among the first to experience this. Grog was bar tered to the natives for many articles, and the newly acquired taste for this luxury grew -quickly and strongly within them, A devil

took possession of hearts which had formerly been only susceptible to the excitement of the chase, or the corroboree, or the passive and tender one of love.

Once a week a hawker went round to the native villages with a vanful of all sorts of dry goods for sale.

? The encampment was prettily situated among trees at the foot of a hill. From the various wurleys young women came out and crowded round the van. Many fabrics of every imaginable colour in gaudi ness and form were spread before them. It was a curious and interesting soene. The men Btood aloof, engaged in mending their weapons or lying under the bushes. Dogs lay around flat on the ground with their heads be tween their paws as if asleep, but with an eye open on the strangers. Some women stood at tne doors of the wurleys watching the buyers.

The young women wore dresses of a light i and gaudy colour. Down their backs hung long tresses of beautiful coal-black hair, which shone in the sun. Their bodies, undisguised

by those inventions of civilization that are thought to improve the human form, were marvels of perfection and admired by the most superficial critics..

There was a man with the hawker who went among the natives and seemed to be well received. He was offering grog to them for their weapons, preserved skins of animals, - and other curious articles which the natives possessed. A large pile of skins and other articles lay beside the van which the natives had just bartered. Many Of the natives were maudlin, some insensible, some, quarrelsome, as the grog affected their peculiar constitu tions. A tall and powerful native approached the van, and seizing the weapon he had just bartered walked away with it The grog seller or batterer went up to him.

" You sold me that. Put it back," he cried to the native, who was in a maudlin state of intoxication.

" Sold you it I How—when ?"

"Just this minute; not five minutes ago." " Can't be. No mine to sell."

" But you did, and you must leave it."

"This was my father's. I cannot sell my father's spear."

" You must, my good fellow. I have paid you for it."

" Paid or not paid I must have it back."

" The white man does not deal in that way. If you sell there is no getting baok."

" White man deals I'll give white man black man's deal" And the native drew

himself to his full height, and firmly grasping the spear stood in an attitude of attack.

Meantime some of the other natives had

gathered round the disputants and were becoming excited. Many of them eyed their own weapons and other articles they had

possessed and strongly wished to get them back. Others boldly joined the native who had already secured his spear and demanded

their property. The grogseller stood between J the articles and the natives, drew his re volver, and threatened to Bboot the first man who touched anything. The hawker also drew his revolver and stood beside his fellow trader. Several of the blacks recoiled and slunk into the rear and watched the result from a safe distance. The native, however, who had secured his spear stood erect and did not move. With threatening eyes and uplifted spear he stood prepared. Four other natives only remained beside him. One of these was in such a maudlin state of in toxication he could not realize the situation

as he looked dreamily at each of the opposing | parties.

" Now, will you lay down the spear?" " No."

" I shall fire."

" If you raise your arm I shall throw the

spear.

" I will."

Suiting the action to the word he raised

his arm to fire, but tbe spear of the native

swiftly descended and hissed through the j air. It entered tbe right arm of the grog seller, and the force with which it was thrown knocked him down.

" Hold 1" called out a well-known voice, as hurried footsteps were heard approaching. " Do not fire. He is my brother. Do not fire 1" cried George, as he rushed into the camp, and realized the perilous position of his brother. But he was too late. The

Eedlar fired, and the native fell. Again he

red, and the maudlin native, who had been

slightly wakened up by the report, fell heavily to the ground, dead. The other native was only wounded, and rising in a blinding passion was rushing against his antagonist, when George ran in between them and stopped his brother. But again he was too late. Two reports rang in the air, and George, clutching his brother, fell dead. Neither moved. Both were dead. These two shots fired at such close quarters had done fatal work.

The women had gathered round a clump of , sheaoaks, and when the two last shots were fired, ana George and his brother fell dead, tbeyrusbed forward to know the dreadful truth. Mary, in tbe first pangs of grief, threw herself on the body of her husband, and would not be separated. The women moaned and cried, and would not be silenced. The

flower of the tribe had fallen in that little

gust of human passion.

Taking advantage of the confusion the white men got into their van and drove away. When at the apex of the hill they were cross ing they looked behind; between the giant limbB of some gums they saw the women kneeling over tne dead bodies, and faintly heard their moans and cries of grief and despair.

"The affair," as it was then called, at the native camp was a nine days' wonder to the white people, and the wound which the grog seller received was a memento of the day that he carried with him to the grave.

Time moved slowly but surely, and the affair had been nearly forgotten. . Tattle mongers now and again mentioned it, but it was almost buried in the past so far as the white people were concerned.

Seasons had elapsed since the fatal shot were beard at the native camp—one summer and one winter had at least gone by. The winter bad played havoo with Mary's health. Always happy and gay while George w&b with her, his absenoe caused a blank in her life that could not be filled. Accustomed

in her youth to live in the warm bouses of the whites, tbe nnusually severe winter that suc ceeded George's death told upon her sadly, and her slim wurley. was not warm enongh to

keep out the cutting colds. Consumption be- , gan its cruel ravages, and her strength faded away. Her little girl, born shortly after George's death, engrossed all her atten tion; but Mary was sometimes seen by the side of the creek that ran past. the camp mourning over her fate, and rocking to and fro with the baby in her arms. She seemed to revive nnder the bright influence of the warm sun, and would play with her baby for hours among the ferns and flowers that grew luxuriantly around and clapped her hands with glee when her child langhed and was pleased with tbe. flowers she plncked. Tbe wurley regained some of its accustomed neatness, and before the balmy evenings of summer begun to give place to the searching cold of winter it was thonght tbat Mary had forgotten the past, or

bad become reconciled to the inevitable. Not

so. Her heart was broken, - and ? nothing earthly could renew it. The one great pas sion of bet life had gone. Love in all its pu rity and power bad guided and sustained her. Through love she had seen these bills, these trees! these flowers. Now all was changed: there was no beauty anywhere; and all things were meaningless.

As the cold evenings became morefrecjuent, and the rain occasionally flooded the creek, Maryand her baby were often absent from the once trim and neat wurley. In the grey, just before dawn, when .objects are indis tinctly seen, the frail figure of a woman whirled in the eddies of the creek, and finally rested in the calm waters of the deep pool beneath thecamp.' Aclumpof willows drooped and bent over the pool and sheltered from

the cold, cold world, Mary and her babe.